Pregnant? Still drinking that pot of coffee?

As all y’all know by now, I’m an experienced caffeine junkie. Currently, I’m trying to forgo it again (this Diet Coke right here is merely an aberration, do not look at the caffeine behind the curtain…). But really, it’s everywhere around us. Somehow I don’t think it was QUITE so prevalent until the age of Starbucks. but it seems like now you can’t go anywhere without running into a coffee shop or three. In some cities there is literally one on every street corner. And with the crazy lives we all appear to be living these days, shouldn’t we take whatever legal cognitive enhancement we can get our hands on?
And heck, with a Starbucks on every streetcorner, what’s a poor lady who is…*ahem*…increasing (for those not familiar with the Victorian term, it means preggers), to do? Some of us spend our lives pretty well addicted, but when a women in the US finds out she is pregnant, she is immediately to drop to no more than one caffeinated beverage a day. And 70% of expectant mothers apparently don’t even do that. So the big question is: is our children caffeinated? Bjorklund et al. “Perinatal Caffeine, Acting on Maternal Adenosine A1 Receptors, Causes Long-Lasting Behavioral Changes in Mouse Offspring” PLoS ONE, 2008.

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I’m BACK! Finally, a return to wireless. Granted, I’m sitting in an airport, but that’s long enough to bang out a post, right? The real work can wait, my brain is still on vacation.
I hope you all got what you wanted for the holidays, and that Santa left PhDs in your stockings, or tenure, or the latest in lab equipment. Or whatever.
Did I mention how much I LOVE getting free books in the mail? Seriously, it makes Sci so happy. This one looked promising right from the start. Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution, by Mark Blumberg.
And for good measure, here’s the cover:
WARNING: spoilers ahead. Though considering it’s a book review, there SHOULD be spoilers ahead. Otherwise one would have to question whether or not I had read the book at all.

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Good Advice, Part 2

So I’ve been thinking of ways to make some of my more science-y blogging come across to those with less in the way of science backgroud. There was a suggestion that I try categorizing the posts into easy, intermediate, and difficult, but I wouldn’t want people to give up on something they may potentially find really cool just because it’s labelled “hard”, you know?
One way I thought of to help with this would be a series of really easy background posts on many of the topics that I write about. These would be things like different neurotransmitters and brain areas, as well as a couple of diseases that I happen to think are really cool. Thus, when I write the deeper, more science-y posts that contain these topics, I can link back to them, and you will know what I’m talking about. It’s like wikipedia, only better because all of these things relate specifically to ME. And cannot be edited by people who may just want to change things for fun. These will, of course, be interspersed with other posts (I’ve got something awesome brewing on Aristotle, stay tuned).
So, without further ado, the first one of the things that I happen to like blogging about background posts…DIABETES.

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It’s not the size that counts, it’s how you use it!

Before I do anything else, I want to let you know that Not Exactly Rocket Science has posted a really cool article on a robotic starfish! It can adapt to injury and self-assess. And it’s so cute! Anyone want to get me a robotic starfish? Anyone…?
And on a sad note: Tetrapod Zoology reports on strange giraffe deaths. This makes me so sad! The giraffe, in all it’s tall, necky, awkwardly graceful and nervous glory, is my totem! Though Coturnix also identifies with our favorite ungainly giant. Coturnix, watch out for trees.
ACK! Cool stuff keeps happening before I can finish this post! Tangled Bank is up over at Evolved and Rational, and yours truly is featured, tho’ we are misspelled are ‘Neutropia”. It’s almost the same, right?
Scienceblogs Book Club is back, with “Autism’s False Prophets” as it’s current book. I REALLY want this book. I think I might have to make it a special gift to me, since I’m so awesome.
Finally, and in keeping with today’s paper: Zooillogix has found fat dolphins. Regardless, I think they’re awfully cute. The second pic of the chubby one on the bottom is particularly so. But really, I had something real to write about today (though I think I’ve spent the entire day writing so far…). As I’m sure most of you are aware, doctors are very worried about an obesity epidemic in the United States and other countries. There are lots of possible causes, lack of activity due to sedentary lifestyles, genetic components, crappy food, etc. It’s not that doctors are worried about people being obese per se (though there is probably some societal vanity at work), it’s that there are strong correlations between obesity and several tough health problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and cancer. A new essay out in PLoS Biology predicts that it may not be your actual size that counts, but what you do with the fat you have.
Virtue, S, Vidal-Puig, A. “It’s not how fat you are, it’s what you do with it that counts”. PLoS Biology, 6(9), Sept. 2008.

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Status Epilepticus, TLE, and GABA-A Receptor Gene Therapy

Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) refers to a condition where recurrent seizures arise in the temporal lobe of the brain. This condition is seen in humans and animals. Often, TLE arises following a neural insult such as head trauma or tumor, but can also be triggered by infection. These febrile seizures are often seen in children under the age of five, and subsequent scans can show atrophy of temporal lobe structures such as the hippocampus. The hippocampus is highly interconnected with other temporal lobe structures, so a seizure that originates from or propagates through the hippocampus is likely to result in widespread seizure activity.
While febrile convulsions of short duration (on the order of a few minutes) are somewhat normal in infants, convulsions lasting more than one hour indicate a high risk for developing TLE in the future. TLE resulting in status epilepticus (SE) is of particular concern, as SE is a life-threatening condition where the brain enters a state of persistent seizure, either from one long episode or a series of recurring episodes. Medication may not be effective at controlling SE, and complications are almost inevitable. If SE is the result of TLE, resection of the entire temporal lobe can be successful at eliminating seizure activity. While the brain is very “plastic” in younger children who can recover from this sort of surgery and go on to live almost completely normal lives, such drastic surgery is not desirable as age increases because the brain’s ability to compensate for the surgery is diminished.
With this in mind, I turn your attention to a recent publication.

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Just Give ‘em Some Nyquil While You’re At It

I know Tara is going to kick me for this post, because as one of the resident D.I.N.K.s here at ScienceBlogs my parenting advice doesn’t extend into the realm of “ethical” so much as “practical”. Specifically, I’ve advised her on numerous occasions to just give the toddlers a “pharmacological sleep aid” of sorts. Ok, ok, so my suggested “sleep aid” usually takes the form of whiskey or Nyquil, but I’m not adverse to Benadryl either. After all, diphenhydramine is actually recommended by pediatricians to help kids sleep. Surely it is just as efficacious as my other suggestions, if a little on the “lightweight” side!
Turns out I was wrong.

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PDE-5 Inhibitor Sildenafil Improves Cognition, or Viagra’s Good for the Big Head Too

Inspired by Rush Limbaugh’s apparent erectile dysfunction, I decided that today’s Evil Journal Club should address the “other” potential uses of PDE-5 inhibitors, the most (in)famous of which is Viagra.

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Following up on Leptin

Pure Pedantry found this paper on leptin’s effects in the hippocampus, and then went on to wonder

I have never heard of a link between leptin and memory. They also make this link between ABeta mice and leptin. ABeta is a protein whose accumulation has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Mice that create to much ABeta show cognitive deficits. They show that an ABeta overproducing mouse also showed improvement when treated with leptin — and link that result to the observation that leptin decreases ABeta. I am not sure what to make of that, but there is probably a metabolic story related to ABeta production.

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And when you’re in your bigger room…

…you might not know what to do
you might have to think of
how you got started
sittin’ in your little room
–The White Stripes

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